How The Google Walkout Transformed Tech Workers Into Activists

"The fact that they were just in a rush to get me out the door, that says they are afraid of me, of the organizing work I was doing," she said.

The legacy of the walkout Whatever concerns Google's executives may have about employee activism, so far it hasn't had much effect on the company's business of selling advertising, cloud services and other software and hardware products. Parent company Alphabet has set new records for quarterly revenue and profit in the year since the walkout. Nor has the fracturing of its image as one of the world's happiest workplaces dented its recruitment efforts: In April, the company said it had added more than 18,000 employees over the previous year, an increase in its workforce of more than 20%. Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook have all enjoyed record financial performance in 2019 as well.

But the bigger and more profitable they get, the more emboldened their employees have become to push for change from within. In September 2019, almost 1,800 Amazon employees staged a walkout calling out executives on their inaction on climate change, drawing a pledge from CEO Jeff Bezos to accelerate the company's transition to renewable energy.

On Monday, 1,100 Google employees asked the company to stop doing business with the oil and gas industry and release a public climate plan. At Facebook, hundreds of employees recently signed their names to a message urging CEO Mark Zuckerberg to reconsider a policy allowing politicians to make false claims in ads. Unlike Google, neither Facebook nor Amazon has a long history of open employee activism.

Most recently, employees at GitHub and its parent, Microsoft, publicly called on their companies to cancel their contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. As The Times first reported, one employee has now resigned over the contract. Google walkout organizers have offered support and knowledge to the leaders of many of these efforts.

Most crucially, perhaps, they've offered inspiration.

In May, six months after the Google walkout, 200 employees at Riot Games walked out of their office to protest the company's policy of mandating arbitration in cases of sexual misconduct allegations. An organizer at the Santa Monica-based video game company, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution, told The Times it was only a matter of time before Riot workers took some sort of public action to make themselves heard. But it was witnessing those 20,000 Googlers filing out of their offices, and the long shadow their act cast across the tech landscape, that helped them choose the form. ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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